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  Monday, September 16, 2019
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Seven women have emerged from a hillside dugout in Russia's Penza
Seven women have emerged from a hillside dugout in Russia's Penza Region where they had been holed up for five months along with 28 other doomsday sect followers, local officials said.

The women came to the surface voluntarily on Friday evening, and insisted on being placed in the home of cult founder Pyotr Kuznetsov as a condition for negotiations, Penza Deputy Governor Oleg Melnichenko told TV channel Vesti.

Four of those still underground are children, Melnichenko said.

The group went into the hillside in the Bekovo District in the in November to "save themselves during the time of the Apocalypse," which they say is due in May, and have threatened to set themselves on fire if any attempt is made to remove them by force.

The deputy governor said about a third of the dugout's roof has now collapsed, and that the group is now cramped into the remaining section. The roots of trees above the enclosure are keeping the roof from collapsing altogether, he said.

The seven women are reportedly in good health, and two of them are negotiating with authorities.

The women have asked to remain in Kuznetsov's house for three months. The sect leader, who ordered the group into the cave but did not join them, has been held in an asylum in Penza, about 600 km (370 miles) southeast of Moscow, since November.

On Wednesday the 43-year-old was declared mentally unfit to stand trial. He had earlier been charged with inciting religious and racial hatred. He has recently explained his decision not to join his followers in the cave by speaking of "another mission in life."

The sect announced on Wednesday that they would come to the surface in late April or early May.


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